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Glossary of Terms

Glossary of terms


Literally “not-self.” Impersonal, without individual essence; neither a person nor belonging to a person. One of the three characteristics of conditioned phenomena.



Transient impermanent, unstable, having the nature to arise and pass away. One of the three characteristics of conditioned phenomena.



Literally, “worthy one.” A term applied to enlightened beings. ariyapuggalā Noble beings. They include lay women, lay men, nuns, and monks. There are eight kinds: those who (1) are on the path to or (2) have realized the fruition of the four stages of enlightenment: stream-entry, once-return, non-return, and arahantship. bhagavā Literally, “fortunate.” When used as an epithet of the Buddha, “the Fortunate One,” “the Blessed One.”



A Buddhist monk who lives as an alms mendicant, abiding by 227 training precepts that define a life of virtue, renunciation, and simplicity. bhikkhunī A Buddhist nun who lives as an alms mendicant, abiding by 311 training precepts that define a life of virtue, renunciation, and simplicity.


Bodhisatta (Sanskrit: Bodhisattva)

Someone who has determined to realize Buddhahood and is cultivating the paramitas toward that final goal.



Celestial being in one of the higher spiritual realms.



An Awakened One; one who knows things as they are, which is the highest potential in every human being. One of many buddhas, the historical Buddha (Siddhatta Gotama) lived and taught between 563 and 483 B.C.



A celestial being; less refined than a brahmā, as a deva is still in a sensual realm, albeit a very refined one.  


Dhamma (Sanskrit: Dharma)

The Teaching of the Buddha as contained in the scriptures. Also, the Truth towards which that Teaching points; the law of nature, the way things are.


Dhammas (Sanskrit: dharmas)

Things, literally ”everything.” Includes material objects, qualities, practices, acts, and relationships.



Literally, “hard to bear.” Covering the whole range, from intense suffering to a slight sense of unsatisfactoriness. One of the three characteristics of conditioned phenomena.


Four pairs

eight kinds of noble beings (See “ariyapuggalā.”)


Gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā (Sanskrit)

Literally, “Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone fully beyond, enlightenment. So be it!”


Kamma (Sanskrit: karma)

Action through body, speech, or mind, arising from wholesome or unwholesome intention.


Khandhas (Sanskrit: Skandhas)

Literally, “heap” or “aggregate.” It refers to the five parts of us: body, feeling tone, perception, volition (will) and consciousness. (See “pañcupādānakkhandhā.”)



Literally, “killer of goodness.” Māra can be described both as a personification of evil forces, having a literal existence, and as a primarily psychological force—a metaphor for various processes of doubt, temptation, and fear that obstruct spiritual practice.


Nibbāna (Sanskrit: Nirvāna)

Literally, “cooled.” The state of liberation from all suffering and defilements, the ultimate goal of the Buddhist Path.


Paccekabuddha (Solitary Buddha)

Someone enlightened by his or her own efforts, without relying on a teacher, but who does not have a following of disciples.



The five aggregates, physical and mental, that is: rūpa (physical body), vedanā (feeling tone: pleasant, unpleasant, neutral), saññā (perception), saṅkhārā(volition), viññāṇa (consciousness). Attachment to any of these as “This is mine, I am this or this is my self” is upādāna—clinging or grasping, resulting in dukkha.



Perfection.  There are ten qualities that we try to bring to perfection: generosity, morality, energy, loving friendliness, equanimity, determination, renunciation (letting go), patience, truthfulness (honesty) and wisdom.  These ten qualities are known as the parami.



Verses of blessing and protection.  


Pañña (Sanskrit: prajñā).




The accumulation of good fortune, blessings, or well-being resulting from the practice of Dhamma.



Form or matter.



An interjection meaning “it is good.”



Literally, “an assembly.” In the suttas, saṅgha refers to the four pairs, the eight kinds of noble beings (see “ariyapuggalā”). Often used to refer to ordained monastics, regard- less of insight. Current popular use of the word includes lay women, lay men, nuns, and monks who gather together to practice the Buddha's teachings.  However, the term for non-monastic groups is parisa.



Our will or volition that is behind all our actions whether they be physical, verbal or mental.  



Perception, the mental function of recognition.



Literally, “thus gone”or “thus come.” One who has gone beyond suffering and mortality; one who experiences things as they are, without delusion. An epithet the Buddha applied to himself.


Threefold bliss

Mundane bliss, celestial bliss, and Nibbānic bliss.



Feeling tone, either pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral.  It arises simultaneously with any consciousness and is more basic than the more elaborate emotions.


Viññāṇa Consciousness

Bare cognition or awareness, which arises in dependence on the six sense bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind) and their sense objects. Functions in conjunction with the aggregates of vedana, sañña, and saṅkāra.

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